September 19, 2023

What is the Origin of the “Shimadzu” Name and the Corporate Emblem?

In Japan, September 19 is celebrated each year as the surname day. That tradition started in 1870, based on the enactment of a law that permitted commoners to officially use surnames.

Do you know where the “Shimadzu” name and the “Circle Crossed” emblem that symbolizes Shimadzu originally came from?


Origin of “Shimadzu” Name and “Circle Crossed” Emblem

Shimadzu’s emblem consisting of a cross within a circle was established as Shimadzu trademark by its founder, Genzo Shimadzu Sr., based on the Shimadzu family crest. Genzo Shimadzu Sr. is not related to the Shimadzu clan of the Satsuma Domain by bloodline. His ancestor is Sohbei Inoue, who lived in Banshu (presently in southwest Hyogo Prefecture) during the latter half of the 16th century.

It is reported that when Lord Yoshihiro Shimadzu of the Satsuma Domain was returning from Fushimi in Kyoto, he stopped to inspect land in Banshu Himeji newly given to him by Lord Hideyoshi Toyotomi. During that visit, Genzo’s ancestor Sohbei Inoue was assigned the role of attending Lord Shimadzu. To show his appreciation for Sohbei’s sincerity, Lord Shimadzu granted Sohbei the right to use the name of Shimadzu and the family emblem consisting of a cross within a circle.

Genzo Shimadzu Sr.

Genzo Shimadzu Sr.

There are no official records that indicate when Shimadzu Corporation began using the Shimadzu family crest as the corporate emblem. However, a photograph of the Kiyamachi head office building around 1894 shows that the “Circle Crossed” emblem was already being used.

Kiyamachi Head Office Building with the “Circle Crossed” Emblem

Kiyamachi Head Office Building with the “Circle Crossed” Emblem

Current Shimadzu’s Emblem

The current emblem of Shimadzu Corporation was originally registered as a trademark in 1912, which was before the year the company was reorganized as a joint-stock company in 1917.

When the emblem was trademarked, the proportional shape and dimensional values were accurately specified, with the line width of the outer circle specified to be 1/8 of the overall circle diameter and the cross bars 10 % thicker than the circle. Those proportional values, still used to this day, were scientific values precisely calculated to compensate for human perception and provide a visually pleasing balance between the outer circle and cross lines.

Circle and Cross Line Widths in the Shimadzu’s Emblem are Precisely Calculated

Circle and Cross Line Widths in the Shimadzu’s Emblem are Precisely Calculated

Shimadzu History Since the Meiji Period

On February 13, 1875, five years after a law was enacted that permitted commoners to adopt a surname, another law was enacted that mandated having a surname. Consequently, February 13 has been celebrated every year as the surname enactment day.

Shimadzu was officially founded on March 31, 1875. That is when Genzo Shimadzu Sr., a craftsman of Buddhist altar fittings, began manufacturing educational physics and chemistry instruments based on his strong conviction that Japan should aim to become a leader in science.

That means Shimadzu Corporation was founded in the same year that surnames were mandated, which is a reminder of just how long the history of Shimadzu Corporation is.

Video about Shimadzu’s 145-Year History Created in 2020


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